HARRISON, N.J. (AP) Defender Rafa Marquez was released by the New York Red Bulls on Thursday following 2 1-2 frustrating seasons known more for ejections than success and immediately signed with Leon of the Mexican league.
Marquez, whose $4.6 million salary was the second-highest in Major League Soccer behind teammate Thierry Henry's $5.6 million, will play for a Mexican team for the first time since 1999, when he left Atlas to play for Monaco in the French league.
The Red Bulls said his release was by mutual agreement. Mexico's captain at the 2010 World Cup, Marquez signed with New York as a high-priced designated player from Barcelona in August 2010 after losing his starting role in central defense to Gerard Pique.
Marquez had one goal and nine assists in 44 regular-season games, playing in just 15 matches this year. He started in six playoff games in his career with the team and was ejected from two of them.
He also was suspended by the Red Bulls for a game in September 2011 after criticizing teammates.
``This decision has been made in the best interests of both parties concerned,'' new Red Bulls sporting director Andy Roxburgh said. ``Rafa has accomplished a great deal during his career and is a top quality player. We want to thank him for his service to the Red Bulls and wish him the best of luck in the next stage of his career.''
Leon, a five time Mexican champion, spent 10 years in the second division until last summer when it returned to Mexico*s top level. Carlos Slim owns 30 percent of the team along with broadcasting rights.
``I*m sure our fans will give Rafael Marquez a great welcome as the new member of our team,'' Leon club president Jesus Martinez said.